Italian Easter Bread

Italian Easter Bread by Elaine McCardel of The Italian Dish

1 1/4 cups of milk
1/3 cup butter
1 pkg. Rapid rise instant yeast (about 2 1/4 teas.)
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups of flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tea. of water
Sprinkles or pearl sugar for decoration
6 Easter eggs, dyed

In a small saucepan, warm milk and butter, just until butter melts.

In a large stand mixer, combine yeast, salt, eggs, and sugar.  Add warm milk (not hot) to mixture.  If it is too hot it will kill the yeast.  Read yeast package for appropriate temperature. Add half of the flour and with the dough hook, beat until smooth.  Slowly add remaining flour to form a stiff dough, adding flour until the dough is not sticky anymore.

With the dough hook or by hand on a lightly floured board,knead dough until smooth.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.  This will take about one hour.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.  Punch dough down; divide into 12 pieces.  Roll each into a rope 1 inch thick and 14 inches long.  Twist two together to form a braid.  Pinch ends, loop into a circle and transfer to baking sheet.  Repeat to form six rings.  Cover and let rise until dough doubles in size.  This will take about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add water to final egg in recipe and beat.  Brush each bread with beaten egg wash.  Sprinkle with pearl sugar or sprinkles.  Gently place an Easter egg in the middle of each dough ring, making an indentation with the egg.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Cool on rack.

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